For Hindus, the upcoming holiday of Diwali marks Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana, and the god’s subsequent homecoming after years of exile. Diwas, or small oil lights or candles (left), are lit as a symbol of the victory of light over darkness, and fireworks are also set off in celebration. The holiday starts this Saturday night, when Newark Avenue in Jersey City will host a big party. The avenue is already bustling–there are clothes sales going on, the shops are filled with diwas in different styles, and sweets shops are stocked up for the rush.
Regional groups celebrate Diwali in different ways, but generally speaking, people eat vegetarian food for the holiday, abstain from alcohol, and indulge in lots of sweets. (I’ll be going up to my in-laws house for Diwali this weekend–if you’re interested, look for some recipes later in the week.) At Bengali Sweet House on Newark Avenue, ask for the kesar pedas and the pista burfi (saffron and pistachio sweets, respectively)–both are delicious, and very fresh. A small box only costs about $4, but you can also just get one of each to sample for yourself. (Skip the mango burfi and besan burfi, which are not as good.) You can also get a container of karanji, coconut-filled turnovers, which are very traditional for Diwali.
Newark Avenue’s Diwali party will start at 7pm on Saturday–expect lots of dancing, eating, and general festiveness.
Bengali Sweet House
836 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
Rajbhog Sweets and Snacks
812 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 13, 2009